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von Mary Bailey, 1996.
April 1994 saw the publication of Volume 4 in the Cichlids Yearbook series from Cichlid Press, edited as usual by Ad Konings. Those of us who have seen it so far are agreed that it is just as good, and perhaps even better, than its predecessors.
This year there are six new authors making their first contributions, as well as "regulars" such as Frank Warzel, Ole Seehausen, and, of course, Ad Konings himself. It is a healthy sign, I think, that increasingly the contents are from other than the editorial "pen," demonstrating the growing willingness of others to play a part in what has become a very important part of cichlid literature.
The newcomers include no less a personage than Dr. Melanie Stiassny of the American Museum of Natural History, already well-known to cichlidophiles worldwide for her scientific work on the Cichlidae. She examines the important question of which other fishes are the closest living relatives of the cichlids, something which is necessary if we want to "place the family Cichlidae in its evolutionary context." I am sure the late Dr. Ethelwynn Trewavas, herself a yearbook contributor (and remembered in this volume) and for many years a keen supporter of scientist/hobbyist cooperation, would have been delighted at Dr. Stiassny's participation. It is to be hoped that this trend of scientific involvement will continue in the future.
The taxonomic theme is continued by Martin Geerts, who describes the latest views on the history of the Cichlidae, including the revolutionary idea that the African-Asian and Neotropical groups may in fact be two separate families. If this proves to be the case, then the Cichlidae will of necessity be restricted to the Americas, as the type genus of the family is Cichla!
Volume 3 of this series saw the emphasis change from numerous short pieces to longer articles, a trend which is continued in this new volume. Ole Seehausen gives us the next installment of his in-depth study of Victorians; Frank Warzel takes a detailed look at the Crenicichla ("Batrachops") reticulata group. There are articles on collecting in Colombia and Mexico; the description of a new Pseudotropheus species; pieces on new varieties of well known Rift species; and a remarkable account of breeding Boulengerochromis microlepis. Non-Rift Africans have excellent coverage, and it is nice to see not just the currently "trendy" Madagascans but also a couple of unusual West Africans included. Central America is not forgotten, with articles on Nandopsis istlana and a rare golden morph of Herichthys minckleyi. Finally there is a most interesting piece on the manufacture of realistic aquarium backgrounds based on "wild" materials.
All the yearbooks and, indeed, all of Ad Konings' publications, are noted for a high standard of photography; Yearbook Volume 4 is no exception. There are cichlid portraits, biotope photos, and "action pictures" - cichlids in their natural habitat and cichlids (including Madagascans) with eggs and fry. To my mind the biotope photos are especially valuable, as they show exactly what the natural habitats are like - something no amount of descriptive prose can really hope to achieve.
When reviewing earlier volumes in this series, I have made the point that these yearbooks are not "annuals" in the normal sense of the word but rather "installments" in a continuing compendium of information on cichlids. This remains the case, and the entire set must be regarded as an essential feature of every serious cichlid-keeper's bookshelves. Those who have the first three volumes will need no further persuading; those for whom Volume 4 is their introduction to the series will, I feel sure, want to obtain the previous three. I myself can't wait for Volume 5!.